Thesis defence in the University of Oulu

Doctoral Candidate

Master of Arts Teresa Komu

Faculty and research unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Humanities, Cultural anthropology

Field of study

Cultural anthropology

Date and time of the thesis defence

17.1.2020 12:00

Place of the thesis defence

University of Oulu, Linnanmaa campus, L6

Topic of the dissertation

Pursuing the good life in the North. Examining the coexistence of reindeer herding, extractive industries and nature-based tourism in northern Fennoscandia


Professor Florian Stammler, University of Lapland


Professor Vesa-Pekka Herva, University of Oulu

The local reality of Lapland's land use conflicts is more nuanced than the polarized public discussions around mining

Public discussions around mining in Lapland are polarised but at the local level the various parties of land use conflicts also share a common pursuit to secure the possibility for a good life in the North.

The thesis discusses the local dimensions of land use conflicts in northern Fennoscandia. The object of research is the coexistence of reindeer herding, mining and nature-based tourism in the Torne River Valley area, on the Finnish-Swedish border region. In particular, the research discusses the still controversial planned re-opening of the Hannukainen mine in the Finnish Kolari during 2011-2015.

The research is based on ethnographic research methods, mainly interviewing and participatory observations. Present-day land use conflicts are analysed in a long-term perspective. The research points out that the actions of a single livelihood group during local land use conflicts may be guided by not only a need to secure the continuity of one's livelihood but also by an aspiration to maintain good relations to other members of one's community.

The various parties to local land use conflicts live as members of larger social communities and thus their actions should be understood against this background. The research results challenge the assumption that a lack of open resistance against a planned land use project, such as a mining project, equals local acceptance of a said project. Local attitudes towards vast land use projects are not always compatible with a simple acceptance-resistance dichotomy. Depending on their circumstances, local people may refuse to resist projects they deem harmful for themselves.

The thesis argues that behind the polarised discussions around mining in northern Fennoscandia are in part on the one hand the dependency of nature-based tourism on the image of Lapland as an untouched wilderness and on the other hand long-term dreams of prosperity and a better tomorrow attached to mining. Emphasizing the nuanced local realities and examining present-day land use conflicts in a broader historical and cultural context is a step towards more constructive dialogue between the various parties of Lapland's land use conflicts.


Last updated: 9.1.2020